I really think that you are what you sing. Shallow theology will produce shallow music, and shallow music will produce shallow theology. It’s a cyclical thing. What we are challenged to do in our day is to reinsert the theological element both into our lives and into our music.
The foundation of worship in the heart is not emotional (“I feel full of worship” or “The atmosphere is so worshipful”). Actually, it is theological. Worship is not something we “work up,” it is something that “comes down” to us, from the character of God.
It is God who gives us the spirit of worship (Psalm 133:3), and it is what we know of God that produces this spirit of worship. We might say that worship is simply theology, doctrine, what we think about God, going into top gear! Instead of merely thinking about Him, we tell Him, in prayer and praise and song, how great and glorious we believe Him to be!
Our devotion must culminate in a conscious yielding of every part of our personality, every ambition, every relationship, and every hope to Him. This done, we have reached the apex of personal devotion. As Thomas a Kempis said, “As Thou wilt; what Thou wilt; when Thou wilt.”
The height of devotion is reached when reverence and contemplation produce passionate worship, which in turn breaks forth in thanksgiving and praise in word and song.
In the process of striving to fulfill our needs and satisfy our desires, the church has slipped into a philosophy of “Christian humanism” that is flawed with self-love, self-esteem, self-fulfillment, and self-glory. There appears to be scant concern about worshiping our glorious God on His terms. So-called worship seems little more than some liturgy (high or low) equated with stained-glass windows, organ music, or emotion-filled songs and prayers. If the bulletin didn’t say “Worship Service,” maybe we wouldn’t know what we were supposed to be doing. And that reflects the absence of a worshiping life- of which a Sunday service is to be only a corporate overflow.
Of all the attributes of God, holiness is the one that most uniquely describes Him and in reality is a summarization of all His other attributes. The word holiness refers to His separateness, His otherness, the fact that He is unlike any other being. It indicates His complete and infinite perfection. Holiness is the attribute of God that binds all the others together. Properly understood, it will revolutionize the quality of our worship.
Worship should lead to greater understanding of theological truth. If we contrast the theological depth of the prose hymn in Colossians 1:15-20 with examples from modern praise choruses, we can see more clearly how trivial and insubstantial some of what we sing in our worship is.
We are now the Temple of God! If the inanimate structure of the old covenant trembled and shook at God’s presence, what is our response, we in whom this same glorious and holy God now lives? How can there be the slightest indifference or coldness or routine or mere ritual or mindless habit in our worship when this same God lives and abides in us?
Worship without wonder is lifeless and boring. Many have lost their sense of awe and amazement when it comes to God. Having begun with the arrogant presumption of knowing about God all that one can, they reduce Him to manageable terms and confine Him to a tidy theological box, the dimensions of which conform to their predilections of what a god ought to be and do.
More knowledge of God leads to a higher form of worship.
Our songs are not the cause of our loss of the sense of God’s greatness, though songs are surprisingly influential. No, our songs reflect this loss. Singing God-centered hymns is desirable, but more than that is needed. We sing what we feel, what we believe. When once we rediscover the greatness of God, we will sing it. Our song will echo our conviction.